Redundancies have been announced at the magazine publisher Hearst, with up to a fifth of its UK staff being let go. Hearst UK publishes magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Red, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Prima, Men’s Health and Women’s Health.
The cutbacks include the magazine Town & Country being closed as well as the sale of the Net Doctor website. Other print titles will also be published less frequently.
Hearst UK has got through the Covid-19 pandemic so far without using the government’s furlough scheme or making any staff redundant. However staff have now been told redundancies will be made and their roles would be closed or pooled, along with enhanced voluntary redundancy packages being offered.
Staff were told that the company is in a strong position but because of the way the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated consumer trends it needs to invest in growth areas and transform into a more modern organisation.
A Hearst Magazines spokesperson said: “Our well-diversified and stable parent company has enabled us to stand by our employees through the worst of the pandemic crisis by protecting jobs and benefits.
The changes will include streamlining all areas and levels of seniority, including the editorial, commercial and consumer marketing departments.
There will be closer collaboration with colleagues in the US so resulting in job cuts in the UK editorial teams. Despite this the magazines must remain “culturally relevant and distinctly British”.
Commercial teams will be “repurposed” under an evolution of the advertising sales strategy.
The company had said in September 2020 that it was prepared for the Covid 19 pandemic losses to eat up a large proportion of its cash reserves
The 2019 full year accounts for National Magazine Company, of which Hearst UK is its subsidiary, revealed increased profitability pre-Covid.
Pre-tax losses in 2019 were £2m, which was down from £6m the year before. The company reported a 3.6% drop in revenue from £146m to £140.6m. With operating profit more than doubling from £0.7m to £2.2m.
Hearst UK chief executive James Wildman said at the time: “Fluctuations in demand and increased online competition for advertising revenue could have a marked impact on profitability.
“However, the positioning of our magazine brands and our mixed portfolio of magazines and diversification into digital publishing, events and other revenues helps to manage the exposure to this risk.”
Three key areas of growth over the past year have been digital advertising, e-commerce and print subscriptions, staff were told.
In November Hearst UK announced it was upping the frequency of Prima in print from 12 to 13 editions a year, citing a 68% subscriptions boost over the previous year and strong performance on the newsstand.